New York Decriminalises Use Of Cannabis

Gov. Andrew Cuomo Photo: Shutterstock

New York has decriminalised the use of marijuana – becoming the 16th US state to do so.

The move, which would make possession of a small amount of the drug a violation rather than a felony, was signed into law by governor Andrew Cuomo.

The measure also demands that criminal records of offences linked to low-level marijuana cases either be marked as expunged, or destroyed – an apparent reflection that in the past communities of colour suffered unduly from different application of the law.

“Communities of colour have been disproportionately impacted by laws governing marijuana for far too long, and today we are ending this injustice once and for all,” Mr Cuomo said in a statement.

In many respects, the decision by politicians in the state capital, Albany, is behind the trend in many parts of the country.

While New York has become the 16th to decriminalise the drug’s use, 11 states plus the Districts of Columbia, otherwise known was Washington DC, have legalised personal use. Its use remains a federal crime.

Those pushing for greater liberalisation welcomed the move, but urged legislators to go further. Some said there were still many negative consequences that come with having marijuana as an illegal violation.

“Police have historically found a way to work around the decriminalisation of marijuana,” said Erin George, of Citizen Action of New York.

People can still face probation violations and immigration consequences under the decriminalisation bill, she said.

The legislation signed by Mr Cuomo will make possession of less than one ounce of marijuana punishable by a fine of up to $50. Possession of two ounces will carry a fine of up to $200

The penalty is $50 for possessing less than one ounce of pot or a maximum of $200 for one to two ounces. It will go into affect in 30 days.

Additional reporting by Associated Press